A wise man once said, “I’ve lived in many places, and you know what? They all have Walmart.” It is true that life is still life anywhere you go. The people change, the scenery is different, and the hunt for the perfect pizza is still illusive. And while Ryan and I still grocery shop, change diapers, and walk the dog it has been fun getting to know a new state and city. Yes, Oregon (and Newport specifically) are quite different from the places I lived in Virginia. For one there is no sales tax here. I am still in awe that I can get a frosty from Wendy’s for 99 cents! Amazing! Well, we don’t have a Wendy’s here in town, but I did happen to have this very exciting experience when we stopped to fill up our gas tank outside of Portland. “Guess how much this frosty was, Ryan?!” “Um, 99 cents.” “No, I know, but guess how much the grand total was…” “99 cents, Sarah.” Smartypants. He always spoils the fun. But enough of frostys, where was I? Oh yes, Oregon and Virginia. There are no leaves changing where we are because our forests now consist mainly of Douglas Firs and Redwoods. Yep, it smells like Christmas trees when you drive through. Very cool. I could go on about how the state is predominately Democrats versus the Republican nature of Virginia, but discussing politics with friends never ends well. But you want to know one of the most glaring differences? You can’t pump your own gas here. Now you might be thinking, “That is awesome! I hate pumping gas.” Or maybe you are thinking that is the most ridiculous thing you have ever heard. But either way you can’t do it. It is against the law. Unless you drive a motorcycle. I mean, you can’t even fill up one of those red gasoline containers. It is forbidden! When doing some further reading on this I was amazed that although it is partially to create jobs, it is a law mainly because it is “too dangerous” for the average citizen. I hope you are laughing because that is hilarious! Those other 48 states (New Jersey is also aware of the dangers of fueling up) are really endangering Americans.
But seriously, a place doesn’t quite feel like home until you know the insider information. The good places to eat. Where to find the least crowded beach accesses. The fun things people do on the weekends. Being spontaneous with a 6 month old is hard, but our first weekend here we put on our hiking shoes, zipped up our fleeces, and went out in search of a place to hike. It isn’t hard to find a hiking trail around here. They are everywhere. So, we just pulled into the first place we saw. It was near the mountains so the view from the top of the visitor’s center was terrific. It looked like a good place to start. We checked out the trail map and it seemed there was a quick loop. Perfect. Ryan ran down ahead to see if the trail was suitable for our jogging stroller. I waited at the top with Abigail and Hank. Ryan came back up a few minutes later thinking it was a pretty easy hike so we went to the top of the trail. That is when I saw it. The loud yellow sign that said, “Bear sighting: July 18, 2010. If you encounter a bear: STOP, STAY CALM, APPEAR LARGE, FIGHT BACK, MAKE NOISE, KEEP CHILDREN CLOSE, AVOID HIKING ALONE.” Um, okay. No big deal we have bears in Virginia and bears in Oregon are probably a lot nicer being that they are much more liberal and open minded. Well, that was all fine and dandy until right beside it was another loud, yellow sign. “Cougar sighting: September 21, 2010. If you encounter a cougar: STOP, STAY CALM, APPEAR LARGE, FIGHT BACK, MAKE NOISE, KEEP CHILDREN CLOSE, AVOID HIKING ALONE.” I turned to Ryan who was already telling me that it was fine, but all I could think of was Stay Calm? Appear large?! Fight back?!? Who were these park rangers with their tips? I mean, the making noise I could handle but the rest I wasn’t so sure about. At this point I was taking deep breaths and muttering something to the effect of “I hate hiking” when Ryan said, “Are you serious? You don’t want to go? That is ridiculous.” And it was. I was being completely irrational. I’m pretty sure all the hiking I did in Virginia was in a habitat containing a number of ferocious beasts, but at least in the south they have the courtesy not to tell you of such unpleasantries! I was about to take my ferocious beast back to the car when Ryan headed down the path with the stroller. The KEEP CHILDREN CLOSE statement sent a lightning bolt through the mama in me and Hank and I ran to catch up with Ryan and Abigail. I did everything I could to convince Ryan that he was putting his baby in grave danger. “Don’t you know the cougar will take Abigail first? She is so small and helpless!” “There is no cougar, Sarah, and plus we have Hank.” “Hank will attract the bear, who will think our dog is a bear, and will start a huge bear fight. I don’t want Hank to die!” “Me either, Sarah, but there isn’t a bear. Look how close we are to the visitor’s center.” It was true that as I looked up I could see the senior citizens admiring the view from the deck. But as Ryan rounded the corner into the deep and foreboding woods I couldn’t take it and I did what every good mom would do. I took Hank and ran back to the car as fast as I could. This was not my proudest moment, but upon further review of my actions, I realized that it was okay. Abigail would be fine. Everyone knows that in the movies the guy with glasses is always the first to go. So we waited for three painful minutes until we saw Ryan and Abigail coming up the path. And Ryan in his good hearted way, laughed, and asked me if I was really scared. “Let’s just go the beach. Where the last thing sighted was a whale or a seal or something.” We did and even spotted a sea otter playing in the waves and found a fossil. And as we drove back to our little house I thought about how glad I was that I didn’t have to get out and pump my own gas. Oregonians are right. It is wild and dangerous here!